First round of Big 12 tournament tougher hurdle than second for Kansas

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) tips a three from TCU guard Jaylen Fisher (0) with seconds left in regulation, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at Schollmaier Arena.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) tips a three from TCU guard Jaylen Fisher (0) with seconds left in regulation, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at Schollmaier Arena. by Nick Krug

In the postseason, today is a little tougher than yesterday and not as tough as tomorrow. At least that’s how it usually works with one-and-done tournaments.

That’s not necessarily the case for Kansas in the Big 12 tournament.

In such a closely bunched conference it’s more about matchups than record.

A case easily could be made that KU will have a tougher time getting past first-round opponent Oklahoma State than competing against the winner of the TCU-Kansas State game.

Mitch Lightfoot played well in both games against TCU, averaging 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and four blocked shots.

TCU’s big man Vladimir Brodziansky brings more skill than power and Lightfoot is well equipped to follow him to the 3-point line.

KU has trouble matching up with skilled Kansas State power forward Dean Wade with our without Azubuike in the lineup, so the Wildcats aren’t a horrible matchup either.

If Kansas can cool off Kendall Smith (49 points, 6 of 9 3-pointers in two games vs. KU) and Mitchell Solomon (25 points, 14 rebounds in the two games) and advance to Friday, it’s realistic to believe the Jayhawks will be playing in the Big 12 title game, which would be quite the accomplishment for a team that lacked front court depth before suffered a sprained MCL in practice Tuesday that will prevent him from playing this week in Sprint Center.

Still, playing without Azubuike is a significant loss at both ends because KU has no big man who can guard ball screens even close to as well as him and he’s such an unstoppable force when he gets the ball on the block.

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